By Liz McCarthy, firstname.lastname@example.org, 803-777-2848
Carolinians care for one another. That’s a key tenet in the Carolinian Creed. It’s also something Rachel Smith and the students running the Gamecock Pantry practice every day.
The campus food pantry created by students opened two years ago to provide fellow students in need with free food, everything from oatmeal and cereal to canned soup and peanut butter. Smith, a junior international studies major, has been directing the pantry with a team of student volunteers this semester.
Smith hopes to work in the service field when she graduates, but her work at the pantry isn’t for padding her resume.
“I’ve always been involved with hunger and homelessness issues,” she says. “I just love service.”
Stories about students struggling to afford food really stuck with her, she says, so she got involved with the pantry project as a freshman.
“Examples like that help me see that it is an issue. You don’t think of it as a problem on a college campus,” she says. “Here we can improve students’ college experience, and that’s important to me. Food is a basic right.”
Pantry volunteers have created a campaign called “Everybody Eats” with a goal of removing the social stigma associated with seeking help. “It doesn’t matter where the food comes from,” says Smith. “It just matters that you have that basic need met.”
Any student can receive help currently; a valid Carolina Card is the only requirement. The pantry also provides help for students’ dependents, up to 10 items per person.
The pantry has seen its numbers increase as more students hear about the pantry. In October, the pantry had 109 visits, up from 71 in September. That number includes repeat visits as students can come for food once a week.
“The goal of the university is to educate and to help us reach our goals. But if you’re struggling for something as basic as food, you can’t put that focus on the education and the reasons why you’re here,” she says. “It’s important for the university to recognize that. It’s part of the care of students.”
The pantry also coordinates with other groups and offices on campus to organize food drives. The project is entirely managed by students from the initial donation to client help.
“I think it’s probably more meaningful for the students [receiving help],” she says. “I think it’s appreciated that others care enough [to help with the pantry]. It helps demonstrate the compassion of the campus.”
The Gamecock Pantry, a part of Student Government, collects donations and accepts new student volunteers each semester. More details about the program, including opening times, can be found on the website.
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